I followed a journalist who I greatly admire to the southernmost provinces of Thailand to document something that I had very little understanding of, in a region considered dangerously far removed from the rest of the country despite residing within its borders. We were eventually connected with a local woman in Pattani who agreed to help us find what we were looking for. 

She was an excellent fixer and interpreter throughout - despite the sensitive nature of the story being reported, and all whilst juggling a busy family life with three young children. We passed the time in between pertinent business browsing local bookshops, sipping Thai Style™ sugary coffee and me tagging along whilst she did all the things a young mother needs to do during the day; more than once I found myself wondering how on earth she manages to do it all. 

In the days that followed, we got to know each other well. We don’t share a religion, education or lifestyle but the conversations were honest and familiar. We are raised by our own people to fear each other but we laughed at the absurdity of it. It seems like Thainess is all we have in common on paper, yet we both expressed a pointed distaste for nationalism. Neither of us like sugary coffee, Thai Style™ anyway… 

It was a sticky evening outside of Pattani Central Mosque when she asked me why I do what I do. Was it a childhood dream? Did I learn photography at school? I told her I actually grew up wanting to be a Picasso, studied fine art at university and how I used to paint, draw and sew shit together as part of my daily ritual. She chimed how she thought most artists always seem to be in their own worlds. 

I agreed with her, recounting how when I was an art student, I was constantly in my own world - in the studio, in my bedroom, in my head trying to construct tangible associations between art theory, some sense of third culture millennial kid experience and whatever I had in my hands…but I eventually grew discontent with composing work derived from a singular mind that had seen so little. I unwittingly concluded that I was probably drawn to photography because it made me see the world of Other people. 

She smiled, exclaimed, “I like that!” and led me inside for evening prayer.

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